6 Percent or 20 Percent?
One of the most important election issue is jobs. Unemployment has dropped to 6 perent of the work force, about 1 point less than a year ago. The number of unemployed has also decreased. In June this year there were 298,000 people unemployed in Sweden, compared to 331,000 in June 2005.
Swedish unemployment is well below the overall EU average of 8.7. Of the 15 older members of the EU, Ireland (4.3), Luxembourg (4.5), Britain (4.7), the Netherlands (4.7), Denmark (4.8), and Austria (5.2) have lower rates than Sweden. Some of the countries with higher rates are: Spain (9.5), France (9.5), Germany (9.5), Finland (8.4) and Italy (7.7).
The Swedish opposition includes people on long sick leave and early retirement in arriving at an unemployment figure of 20 percent.
The Social Democrats, Left, and Green parties are generally in agreement on this issue. They want to fight unemployment through subsidizing salaries. Employers only have to pay a small part of the wages when they hire people who have been out of work for a long period. State funding is also used to create apprenticeship positions for young people. The three parties also promise to ease taxation for small companies. Otherwise they are depending on improving the efficiency of job centers, reschooling the labor force, and a good economy.
The Left Party wants to create 200,000 new jobs in the public sector “where the need is greatest”. The party also thinks companies with 10 or fewer employees should no longer be required to pay sick leave.
The Greens want to lower the working week to 35 hours, which would create more jobs. The party also wants to take some of the funding from the Labor Market Board to use to create 40,000 public sector jobs.
The four party center-right opposition alliance (Conservatives, Liberals, Center, and Christian Democrats) wants to create more jobs through lower income taxes and relaxing regulations for businesses:
- Lower taxes for low and middle income earners
- Removing payroll taxes when employing people who have been unemployed for more than one year (six months for young people)
- Reducing payroll taxes by 50% for young people aged between 19 and 24
- Lower taxes and payroll taxes when employing people 65 or older
- Cutting taxes for home services by half
- Removing payroll taxes for parts of the service sector
These reforms would cost the state around 7 billion dollars in lost revenues (mainly is income taxes). The Alliance would make up for this by increasing the fees workers pay for their unemployment compensation programs, reducing unemployment compensation, removing tax deductions for union fees, removing the sabbatical year reform recently introduced, and reducing state compensation to victims of traffic accidents. The would also not increase the maximum compensation for sick leave, which the government and its allies plan.
The Center Party has its own (controversial) proposal for reducing unemployment among young people under the age of 26, through special contracts making hiring and firing easier. But the other alliance parties have refused to accept this proposal.